Volkswagen has released the first official pictures of the new Golf V, to be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. It's bigger, with completely new styling, but still typically Golf. What do you think?

Volkswagen has released the first official pictures of the new Golf V, to be launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. It's bigger, with completely new styling, but still typically Golf. Just how well will it do?

The front-end styling is new in every detail and optimised for low aerodynamic drag. Another unmistakable feature is the twin circular headlights with the glass tapering towards the centre of the car and with horizontal flashing turn indicators in Phaeton style. Above the headlights, the side panels now rise in a more pronounced curve than before and, as part of the opening section of the engine hood, create a slightly V-shaped outline together with the radiator grille. There are also cues from the Touareg.

The rear of the body features bold rear lights with twin circular elements, another immediately recognisable feature of current Volkswagen design. Half of each rear light cluster is incorporated into the tailgate. The large rear window, together with the side windows, extend back as far as the C-post. According to Volkswagen, the new Golf is even more agile than any of the previous model generations.

There is an extensive range of direct fuel injection engines. The petrol variants are: 1,4 FSI (55 kW) and 1,6 FSI (85 kW), which will be available at launch in Europe, a 2,0 FSI (109 kW), which will début late in 2004, and 2,0 Turbo (147 kW) and 3,2 V6 (184 kW) in 2005. The diesel variants are the 1,9 (77 kW) and 2,0 (103 kW) available at launch, and a 2,5 TDI (130 kW) in 2005.

Gearboxes will include six-speed manuals and automatics, plus a five-speed manual and the six-speed sequential DSG transmission that recently debuted in the Audi TT V6.

The car, available in three- and five-door versions, is significantly bigger than its predecessor, 24 mm wider, 39 mm higher and 59 mm longer. There is more interior space, with 65 mm added to the rear seat legroom and 24 mm to the rear head room. There is 8 mm more in front. The luggage compartment now holds 347 litres and the interior length has gone up by 54 mm.

The safety features include six airbags, five head restraints (of active pattern for the front seats), lap-and-shoulder seat belts, a new type of safety steering column and a pedal assembly that yields to minimise the risk of injury in the event of a crash.

The seating has the option of four-way electric lumbar support (integrated into the electrically adjustable seat) and there is also an independent heater for use when the car is at a standstill. In addition to the 60:40 split rear seat backs, which can be folded down as a standard feature, an optional front passenger's seat back folds forward for additional load-carrying capacity.

Inside, there is optional Climatronic automatic air conditioning, which has separate controls for the driver and front passenger. If the car is reversed, it switches to the recirculated-air mode. If the windscreen washer is operated, the intelligent control system interrupts the fresh-air supply immediately.

According to the manufacturer, the bodyshell's static rigidity value is 80 per cent higher. The Golf has new, dynamic safety suspension settings. At the front, the spring strut suspension layout has been optimised in many areas, to ensure accurate directional guidance and stability. At the rear, a new multi-link suspension layout has been developed.

Volkswagen said that the handling and ride quality have been perfected by a new form of electro-mechanical power steering, which provides a degree of power assistance that matches the car's road speed and helps with straight-line precision. Standard features are ESP electronic stabilisation programme and a brake assist device.

Will new styling and powertrains help the VW Golf reign supreme in Europe again?